Following a series of sealed bids earlier in the year, the old Buddleia building – the home to Novas Scarman’s doomed Contemporary Urban Centre, has a new owner: the North Liverpool Academy.
The Baltic Triangle – the city’s new home for creative and digital industries – took a few body blows last year, with the closure of A Foundation, the CUC and Leaf. This year has seen Camp&Furnace, a new development by Baltic Creative and a general quickening of the pulse, down past the Swedish Church.
For the past six months, the empty building, with its vaulted crypt basement, 120-seat cinema, bare brick walls and 150,000 square feet of polished oak floorboards, has echoed to the sound of its owner’s pledge to see that the iconic building passes into the right hands.
“I want it to go to something that adds to the Baltic Triangle,” Maff Potts, chief executive of social charity ‘People Can’, stated back in December. Forced to sell due to the economic downturn, Potts had turned to regeneration agency Liverpool Vision for help in ensuring that “when we finish here, we don’t let Liverpool down.”
By incredible chance and perfect timing, NLA Trust was looking for a suitable city-centre home, where its two planned new schools, due to open in September 2013, could provide cutting-edge facilities for students in life sciences and digital gaming technology. The schools will spend the next year fitting the building out with state-of-the-art equipment that will be the envy of scientists and technologists the world over.
The North Liverpool Academy isn’t your ordinary academy. Its Studio School is winning plaudits (and global attention) with its bold and radical new approach to teaching computer sciences.
The Studio, developed by the Everton-based North Liverpool Academy, is one of a handful of ‘Studio School’ models in the UK. It seamlessly mixes traditional classroom teaching methods with enterprise projects and mentoring by industry specialists, with students working on real business projects.
Cleverly, The Studio is responding to the city’s success in the gaming and digital technology sector, currently generating £300 million annually, and it’s this meeting of minds which lead the Academy to place a bid (SevenStreets understands it to be around the £7million mark) for the failed arts and events space.
Already, Liverpool organizations such as Sony CEE, Setgo Games, Apposing, Liverpool Vision, Onteca, UKIE and LJMU are helping The Studio to design an innovative curriculum for the first intake of Year 11 students in September.
We’ve talked before about how the Baltic Triangle really needs more opening up at street-level, more communal muster stations and more night time economy: the Academy might not seem the most suitable solution for this. But give the idea time to settle down and you can see the benefits- not just for the students, but for the area itself. They will, no doubt, animate the zone convincingly.
There can be few other arts organisations right now with the cash to not only buy the place, but to keep it running (the building’s already seen £16million of public cash ploughed into it. With the Academy’s bid that takes it way over £20million of our dosh) so we’re now looking at a secure future for this cornerstone of the Baltic. And, with the Academy’s forward-thinking business and enterprise-focused learning, it’s wiser to think of this institution not as a school implanted into the cool corner of town, but of a hot-house, nurturing Liverpool’s digital economy of the future. And that’s joined up thinking we should all support.
“Seeing the CUC brought back into use like this is a fantastic opportunity for the area, for Liverpool and for the wider city region,” says Mayor Joe Anderson. “Once again we are showing the country and world what we as a city can achieve to create great places to learn and develop the skilled workforce of the future.”